This year's event to go on; Race for the Cure not affected
PHOENIX -- This year's Susan G. Komen 3 Day for the Cure will be the last in Phoenix and six other cities across the country. The Komen Foundation announced this week that it's cutting its series of 3-Day events by half for 2014.
In addition to the Arizona walk, Komen also canceled events in Tampa Bay, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. The 3-Day's 60-mile walks in Atlanta, Dallas/Fort Worth, Michigan, Philadelphia, San Diego, Seattle and Minneapolis-St. Paul will continue. Komen calls those locations its "strongest 3-Day markets."
"The decision not to return to Arizona next year was not made lightly, as we know this event has touched the lives of thousands of dedicated participants like you," read an email sent to this year's walkers and volunteers earlier this week. "While the 3-Day has brought great awareness to the breast cancer cause, participation levels in the last five years have made it difficult to financially sustain an event of this magnitude in 14 cities."
The Komen Foundation said modifying the series and cutting events was the "most responsible" decision it could make.
"The primary goal of the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Series has always been to raise and deliver as many dollars as possible to our mission to end breast cancer," the organization said in a statement.
Some people might just throw in the towel at this point, but not me. ... If Arizona's not returning, we want to go out in style. Let's show them all what amazing community support we have here.
- Chrystine Holcomb
"It's difficult to predict the outcome, but we believe the adjustments we are making now will ultimately help improve the amount of money we are able to return to the cause in the future," a Komen representative wrote on Facebook in response to a participant's question about how much money would be saved by the decision to cancel seven of the 14 events next year.
Walkers are required to raise a minimum of $2,300 in order to take part in the event, which is described by Komen as "the boldest thing you can do in the fight to end breast cancer."
According to the Susan G. Komen 3-Day, overall participation in the series has declined 37 percent in the past four years.
In Arizona, participation has dropped 43 percent over the past four years.
Fewer participants means less money.
The 2011 Arizona 3-Day event raised near $4 million for breast cancer research. In 2012, that dropped to $2.5 million.
According to the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Report Card, the 14 events in 2011 raised a total of more $82 million. The 2012 report has not been released yet.
While most of the money from the 3-Day series goes to national research and large public health programs, 25 percent goes to local affiliates for community and outreach programs.
Reaction to Komen's announcement has run the gamut, but 3-Day participants are known for their tenacity and passionate dedication to the cause.
"Some people might just throw in the towel at this point, but not me," said Chrystine Holcomb, who has taken part in the Arizona event either as a walker or a volunteer crew member since 2009, on her Facebook page. "The three events I am participating in [San Francisco, Boston and Arizona] are the last ones for their host cities, and that, to me is something to treasure. It's my five-year anniversary this year.
"So I am not going to let this news get me down," she continued. "I still have money to raise, steps to walk and lives to help save. ... Whether or not you agree with Komen, the bottom line is that cancer still exists, and the only way we are going to beat it is by raising awareness, and Komen has done an incredible job of that for more than 30 years."
3-Day participants throughout the country are understandably upset by Komen's decision, and while there have been negative, even angry, comments posted online, many 3-Dayers, like Holcomb, understand the reasons behind the cuts and plan to continue support the organization as best they can, even if that means traveling to another city to walk 60 miles next year.
(Skip comments and keep reading)
Photo by Chrystine Holcomb
"We would greatly appreciate having everyone come out to support the walkers and crew this year," Holcomb said. "If Arizona's not returning, we want to go out in style. Let's show them all what amazing community support we have here. We will never give up!"
While the 3-Day for the Cure will not be returning to Arizona after this year, the annual Race for the Cure, a 5K that takes place every October, will go on. This year's Race for the Cure is Oct. 13.
"Komen Central and Northern Arizona isn't going anywhere," said Beverly Kruse, the executive director of Susan G. Komen for the Cure Central and Northern Arizona affiliate (Komen CAN Arizona). "The Race for the Cure will still happen here annually, and we still do get a wonderful showing of support from people who want to make that difference."
Early last year, Susan G. Komen for the Cure was embroiled in controversy after cutting grants to Planned Parenthood. Just days after announcing the cuts, the organization reversed its decision amid major backlash that spawned a public relations nightmare and eroded support for the foundation.
"Our events and events overall as whole, that certainly has been something that we know has been contributing factor," Kruse said, addressing that public relations issue. "We also know that there has been a downturn in the economy. Event fatigue is something that we've actually been forecasting and trying to plan for. ... This wasn't a year-over-year decision that was made."
One of the things that we want to really emphasize, though, is there still is a 2013 Arizona 3-Day. Let's make this one the best that it can be ... go out with a bang.
- Beverly Kruse
Komen CAN Arizona
Kruse said the Arizona 3-Day event has been well-supported, something the affiliate, which does not have a direct hand in the 3-Day like it does the Race for the Cure, hopes to capitalize on.
"We do see it as a real opportunity to continue to engage people at a local level who still want to have that solid mission impact ...," she said. "Ultimately, in the end, what we all want to see is more money going towards mission.
"While we're very sad to see the event go, we know that the decision wasn't made lightly and that it will continue to allow the most amount of money to go towards our mission [of ending breast cancer]," she continued.
While the 3-Day is coming to an end here in Arizona, it's not over yet. Not even close.
"One of the things that we want to really emphasize, though, is there still is a 2013 Arizona 3-Day," Kruse told 3TV's Marie Saavedra. "Let's make this one the best that it can be ... go out with a bang."
Hundreds of participants are still training and raising money for the November event. The 3-Day weekend is always extremely emotional for everyone involved, but this year, it's sure to be even more so.
"It is an electric feeling and experience when you're able to be there and witness these groups of people that together have accomplished this amazing thing, all because they have been touched by this disease," Kruse said.
Disclosure: Catherine Holland took part in Arizona's Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure in 2010 as a walker and in 2011 as a volunteer crew member.